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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Regent Park Aquatic Centre has a new name

City Council voted unanimously today to rename the Regent Park Aquatic Centre after the late city councillor Pam McConnell. 

The longtime city councillor and former deputy mayor died at the age of 71 last year. Council saw it fitting to name the aquatic facility after McConnell, who, among many things, was an essential proponent of the city's poverty-reduction strategy. 

She was also a longtime resident of Regent Park, and was one of the people who advocated for the construction of the Aquatic Centre. 

Built in 2012, the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre is one of the best public indoor swimming facilities in the city with several pools, gender-neutral change rooms, a Tarzan rope, and tons of community programming. Plus, it's open year-round.

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

The Drake In My Feelings challenge is officially out of control

If the prospect of a messy, painful death doesn't scare you enough to stop jumping out of moving cars for the 'gram, please turn your focus to the east for a moment.

Bloomberg reports this week that the Egyptian government is warning citizens against doing the popular #InMyFeelings dance (or Kiki challenge, as its sometimes called) on local roads.

It's fine to do the dance for fun, says Egypt's Interior Ministry, but obstructing traffic with it could land you a hefty fine — plus a full year in prison. If the act results in injury or death, the penalties could be much worse.

Based on a song from Drake's latest album, the dance challenge involves having someone film you performing a series of cute hand gestures while walking next to a moving vehicle.

The resulting product is truly delightful, in some cases, but the act of making these videos can be dangerous.

A Florida man was hit by a car just yesterday while trying to do the Kiki challenge and, in the few weeks since this thing became hip with the teens, dozens (if not hundreds) more have been hit by cars, fallen out of cars, crashed into poles and even been mugged while trying to look cool for the internet.

Earlier this month, a 16-year-old girl in Iowa had to be airlifted to hospital with a fractured skull, blood clots in her ear and bleeding in her brain after attempting to do the challenge.

Local news outlet WGNTV reports that she is now re-learning how to walk after spending a week in the ICU.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials all over the world are speaking out against the act of jumping from moving cars to dance alongside them. 

In Spain, police are threatening criminal charges. In Abu Dhabi, they've gone so far as to arrest three "social media influencers" for endangering lives by encouraging the trend.

Maybe it would be best to leave the Kiki Challenge to animals from now on. They do seem a lot better at it than human teenagers.

Hey, we'll always have Tide Pods.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

Fairland Funhouse and Liquor Donuts don't want to ruin Kensington

The old Zimmerman's grocery store at 241 Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market is set to get a new lease on life this August when it transforms into an immersive, art-filled funhouse.

But after reports surfaced that the whole thing might be just a tease for a sprawling Universal Music Canada backed bar called Liquor Donuts local residents quickly registered their objections with the city.

In the latest episode of the Only in Toronto podcast we speak to the people behind the bold projects to try to get to the nitty-gritty of it all. 

Background information on this episode:

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by Staff via blogTO

One of Toronto's most awkward intersections is getting a traffic light

Would you choose to save three minutes of precious time on an otherwise pull-your-hair-out-busy day if it meant risking your safety a little bit?

It's a choice OCAD students are faced with every day when hurrying between the university's main academic campus on McCaul Street and its fast-expanding network of buildings south of Queen Street West.

Fortunately, it won't be like this for long. Toronto City Council has approved of a motion to install traffic control signals at the intersection of Queen and McCaul, where currently, nobody ever knows what the heck is going on.

queen and mccaulWhile most notorious for construction-related woes, Queen and McCaul is also known for people running across the street, in every direction, often through vehicle traffic.

There isn't even a stop sign on the corner right now, which makes things confusing for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

With roughly 4,500 students now attending OCAD University — and nine buildings stretching from Dundas and McCaul to Richmond and Duncan — this is particularly problematic.queen and mccaul toronto

"We now house the majority of our student services – including Admissions, Financial Aid and our Health and Wellness Centre – at our 230 Richmond St. W. building, and hold regular classes in our building at 205 Richmond," reads a letter penned late last month by OCAD Vice-Provost Deanne Fisher.

"This means that hundreds of students traverse Queen Street daily as they move between our main academic building at 100 McCaul and the Richmond St. locations," she continues.

"Students are busy people. They are often stressed, distracted or carrying large projects. While many walk to the corner of Queen and St. Patrick, where there is a traffic signal, and then back to Duncan, many do not."

queen and mccaul toronto

That letter was one of 38 from OCAD staff, students and faculty members that prompted the Toronto and East York Community Council, and then more recently Toronto City Council, to approve the installation of traffic lights.

It has yet to be announced when the lights will be installed, but OCAD is already celebrating a victory.

"A new traffic signal at Queen and McCaul will improve safety for hundreds of members of our community who traverse this stretch daily,"  said President and Chancellor Sara Diamond in a news release on the school's website Tuesday.

"We will continue to work with the City to see the installation happen as quickly as possible."

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

Historic building by Union Station might get a huge makeover

One of Toronto's most significant historical buildings, right by Union Station, might soon have two giant rental towers sitting on top of it. 

One Front, as the project is called, is a new proposal from Vancouver-based developer Larco Investments looking to add a pair of 45-and 49-storey towers to the top of the Dominion Public Building, the old customs house that curves along Front Street between Yonge and Bay. 

Covering two acres of land, the Beaux Arts building at 1 Front Street West went up for sale early last year and was bought by Larco for a whopping $275.1 million shortly thereafter. 

If Larco's plans get approved by the city, the Dominion Public Building— which was built between 1929 and 1931 — will get some serious changes, namely two rental towers jutting out of the podium in the building's east side designed by architectsAlliance

dominion public building toronto

One Front designed by Larco Investments plans to add two rental towers atop the Dominion Public Building. Photo from Urban Toronto/One Front. 

Of the 836 units available, 424 will be one-bedrooms, 208 will be two-bedrooms, 84 will serve as three-bedroom and 120 will be studios units. 

As for the podium itself, the heritage-protected facade will remain mostly untouched save for some new doors. Inside, however, the Canada Revenue Agency offices that currently sit there will have to make way for some serious changes. 

Aside from the 8,986 square metres-worth of dedicated retail and restaurant space, there are also plans for a new 251-room boutique hotel that will take over the second-to-fourth floors of the building. Which brand of hotel that will be has yet to be announced.

The"Long Room" in the building's east pavilion and other marble features will remain untouched, but its original second floor full of ornamental brass railings will be destroyed completely to create taller ceilings for the main level. 

The flat rooftop is intended to house a hotel restaurant, bar, and green roof, while the fifth floor of the podium will be turned into amenities for residents of the rental towers. 

While the grey-and-white renderings for the Dominion Public Building are still in their preliminary stages, it should be noted that Larco was recently criticized for its proposed redesign of Ottawa's heritage hotel Fairmont Chateau Laurier.

by Tanya Mok via blogTO

Toronto's largest Filipino street festival not cancelled after all

It looks like the city has come through in the name of all things chicken abobo.

City officials have stepped in to revive Taste of Manila, one of Toronto's biggest Filipino food and culture festivals, originally set for next month. 

The giant annual street festival had announced recently that it would not be returning this year due to financial constraints and rising fees that made it too difficult to cover the base cost of the festival.

But after the city sat down with organizers to lay out a plan to keep the halo halo on deck this summer, it appears that the festival is back on and set for August 18 and 19.

Not everything has been completely finalized, however, as vendor logistics are still being sorted out. But it seems likely that the festival will be back to serve up lechon and more in a few short weeks.

by Lisa Power via blogTO

Seth Rogen is now doing announcements for the TTC

Actor, comedian, producer, director, writer and fine Canadian human Seth Rogen — he of the unmistakable laugh — has officially "lent his voice" to the TTC for a series of public service announcements.

The announcements, which were themselves announced today, are already playing in subway stations around Toronto alongside the usual delay notices and ding-dang-dongs.

"The TTC thanks Seth for his time and generosity in this fun and unique project," reads a notice on the public transit agency's website. "We also thank our customers for doing their part in making riding the TTC a more positive experience for everyone."

A total of 12 different messages will be played across the system, all of them meant to "promote courtesy on public transit."

"Hello TTC users, Seth Rogen here," says Rogen in one of the audio PSAs. "Backpacks are super efficient, I get it, they carry all your stuff, they hang on your back, they’re fantastic! But when you wear your backpack instead of taking it off it very much annoys everyone around you on the subway."

"Don't be a backpack hunchback," he continues. "That's not a thing, but it is now. Anyway, don't do it. Thank you so much."

All of the announcements are around 20 seconds long and touch on such matters as priority seating, fare evasion, holding train doors, the use of cell phones and — yes — "personal grooming."

"I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but stop clipping your fingernails on the TTC," says Rogen in that PSA. "It's gross!"

You can hear all 12 of the clips right here, or over the intercom next time you ride the red rocket. See, Toronto? Dreams really do come true.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

Someone made a Toronto Raptors version of the Friends theme song

It hasn't been their day, their week, their month, or even their year... but the Toronto Raptors are there for you, just like Joey, Chandler, Rachel, Monica, Pheobe, Ross and sometimes Gunther.

A creative fan of Toronto's recently-modified NBA team has taken the liberty of inserting Raptors players into the intro theme for NBC's long-running hit sitcom, Friends.

The resulting video is both heartwarming and hilarious (cue laugh track.) David Crane & Marta Kauffman would be proud, if they were cool with Masai Ujiri's name replacing theirs in the credits.

Called "Toronto Raptors — F.R.I.E.N.D.S," the work was produced by a Redditor who goes by dragonballa and posted to the r/torontoraptors subreddit on Monday.

It features members of the team's 2018-2019 roster, including Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

"It killed me that I couldn't put DeMar [DeRozan] in this video :(" wrote dragonballa in response to a comment on his post, noting that he was inspired by a similar video in which someone mashed up the Raptors with The Office.

toronto raptors theme song

NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry gets first billing in the reworked Friends intro, making him the group's Rachel, while Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright are clearly Joey and Chandler. Image via TensPeak.

The Raptors version of the Friends intro theme uses a slightly longer version of the song we're used to seeing ahead of reruns, as NBA teams have more than six people on them.

Not a second of that time goes to waste, though. Dragonballa is masterful in his choice of footage from basketball games, media coverage and the personal feeds of players.

He even managed to get a clip of Serge Ibaka wearing a white turtleneck Ć” la Matt LeBlanc in the 1994 original. 

toronto raptors friends

Raptors power forward Serge Ibaka is both both talented and fashionable. Image via Tenspeak.

Beautiful work.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

Selfie seekers shut down sunflower farm near Toronto

Toronto is buying a house so it can save a tree

A towering red oak tree that pre-dates Canada itself by more than 100 years will continue to live out its days in peace, thanks to Toronto City Council.

All that's left to do is buy the estimated $750,000 property it sits on.

Councillors finally voted on Monday to move forward with a plan to acquire 76 Coral Gable Drive in North York. The decision comes after years of discussion and research into the property, which holds a tree that experts believe to be between 250 and 350 years old.

"Due to its size, age and cultural significance, the red oak tree at 76 Coral Gable Drive is recognized as a heritage tree under Forests Ontario's Heritage Tree Program," reads a report that went before the city's government management committee last month.

"The City is now in contact with the homeowner and has undertaken its due diligence regarding the structural and botanical condition of the red oak tree," it continues, noting that an independent arborist's analysis revealed that, "despite its age, the tree is in fair to good condition, based upon its structure and health."

The issue first came to light in 2015, when the property was sold to a private citizen who, in turn, put it back up for sale a few years later.

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti put forth a motion at the time for the city to "initiate acquisition of the property," and source a report on "providing increased levels of protection for significant trees."

The report back recommended that, because the city has no authority over privately-owned trees, Toronto purchase the Emery Village home from its owner. A third party organization would raise funds to maintain the tree (as well as 26 other historically significant trees in the city, if the owners of properties they sit on decide to sell.)

Fans of the tree (yes, the tree has fans) have been fighting for the city to move forward with plans to save it ever since and, as of this week, they can officially rest easy.

Council has granted staffers authority to negotiate the acquisition of 76 Coral Gable Drive, with "at least 50 percent of the determined market value being funded from private donations."

Terms and conditions for the sale are outlined in a confidential attachment, so it is not yet publicly known how much money has been raised by private donors, or how much will be spent on buying the property.

Still, this is good news for the historic red oak tree and those who want to see it stick around. Oaks can live for up to 1,000 years, after all, if humans don't cut them down first.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO